tv Newsmakers with Strobe Talbott CSPAN September 24, 2017 6:00pm-6:34pm EDT
has been kind of determined for us a very long time ago. on especiallyook muslim countries and countries in the east as were they catching up with us or behind us? what that does is it prevents you from being able to see the country on its own. >> watch afterwards tonight on c-span2's book tv. >> our guest on newsmakers is strobe talbott. he recently announced he is stepping aside as president of the brookings institution that he left for 15 years. for more than 40 years has been a leading voice in foreign policy with emphasis on russia. as a journalist, a diplomat and as part of the academy. we look forward in having you here this week. the president just made his first trip to the u.n., thank you so much are being our guest. let me introduce the two reporters asking questions to susan glasser is with a best
-- with us and host of the global political. she spent four years living in russia. thank you for being with us. arthur harris as asking questions, international diplomacy and state department correspondent for the new york times. in previous reporting for the paper covered southeast asia and the white house. thank you for being here. i think you are up first with questions. mr. harris: this is after the super bowl of diplomacy. give us your assessment of the president's speech. it was fairly bellicose. he talked a lot about sovereignty and he went after four countries in particular . how effective do you think that was? does it put him in place over the next year to achieve some of his objectives on the international stage?
>> i think it was predictable and not any regrading our concerns around the world. that?r: q expand on mr. talbot: there has long been the difference in sounding tough. a lot of republicans and conservatives believe there is real benefit in sounding tough. boardt people to get on some of your priorities isolating north korea and perhaps persuading the iranians so click the nuclear -- open the nuclear deal and stop their activities in the middle east. getting been venezuelans to open up their system to more democracy. do you think that being tough, saying "rocket man" will get us
closer to denuclearize korean net, and improved somehow improved nuclear deal, a dismissal of the constituent assembly in venezuela? mr. talbott: let's take the too big and dangerous situations that you focused on and the that you focused on and the president focused on. with regard to iran, the chances of our allies who have backed the deal that we did with iran with the previous administration, they have no desire whatsoever to reopen it. the only company that i have heard suggesting that they are prepared to reopen it is iran
itself and that will not help. in regard to north korea, it is almost as though the two leaders -- our leader and the leader of north korea are seeing who can out bellicose the other. that of course raises what is already a lot of anxiety, particularly i would say in the republic of south korea and in japan. it doesn't help us to have our allies concerned about whether the united states is going to take -- prevent a war, which is an oxymoron because there is no imaginable scenario where the united states could preempt north korea that would not trigger massive carnage in at least in south korea.
i don't think either of those issues are either clearer now or our allies confident with american leadership. >> this is where i would love to jump in. you are a fantastic guest on the politico earlier this year. you mentioned the concern of american allies with the unpredictability of the trump administration. you pointed out you had a senior-level visitor from asia and saying he was here because the united states in washington is now the epicenter of global instability in the world. i am wondering how your meter of global instability is after trump at the united nations, especially this escalating war
of words with north korea. how much do we believe this is something more than a war of words and is a potential step towards a military conflict of some sort? are you worried and those you talk to around the world concerned about american foreign-policy? mr. talbott: he did not mean that washington was the -- and you're not saying that, the epicenter of instability in the world. what he meant was washington was not providing the type of leadership that this gentleman who comes from a very close ally on the other side of the pacific was talking about. i think the dilemma which i'm sure that people around
president trump are thinking about and i would hope are going to do something about, is that the closer our relationships our with countries on both sides of both oceans, the more worried they are. there are some exceptions. there are a couple of friends of the united states who apparently their leaders thought that was a good speech, but they were very much in the minority. susan: you are talking about israel? mr. talbott: yes, and a couple of others but that was the most vocal. the flipside of that is also worrisome. and that is the countries that are not our friends who are at least competitors if not adversaries find that the phenomenon of the new administration to be quite
helpful to them because they can now make inroads into countries that were counting on the united states providing the kind of leadership that it has done for the last 70 years. susan: i want to follow up on that. in putting your former secretary of state hat on and you are on the board advising the previous secretaries of state, john kerry and hillary ensign, diplomacy -- hillary clinton diplomacy does , not seem to be the focal point of the trump administration foreign policy so far. it was hillary clinton who said in one of her recent interviews, the defense secretary jim mattis is the defense secretary and the secretary of state. how concerned are you about what appears to be -- mr. talbott: acting virtually on
both sides of the potomac? susan: he was being a little flippant but it seems that trump is not emphasized it. rex tillerson has been an incredibly low profile secretary of state who does not seem to have the full confidence of his president. what are the consequences of that? do you think that is why our allies are expecting these concerns -- expressing these concerns about a lack of american leadership? mr. talbott: there are a number of interesting issues you just posed. let me go to one which i think is a source of some comfort in some very uncomfortable time. everything that i have heard and seen from a distance about our secretary of defense is comforting. because -- for two reasons. first of all he is a total professional. he has a terrific staff around
him, including a lot of people who bring experience from previous administrations. he is very well regarded by our allies, and this is a credit to president trump, the president seems to begin thing secretary mattis a lot of running room. i hope that will continue to be the case. i had the extraordinary experience out of the blue of eight years of the state department, and i cannot find a word that captures my emotions about what is happening here. this is a disaster. it cannot be blamed on presidential personnel offices in the white house.
i'm sure that what is happening, the diminishment of the both the work that the state department does and the morale of people who do it, and the number of people who are doing it are not just coming out of the white house, and it's not because of the president's base wants to see that part of the swamp drained. it is called foggy bottom is not a swamp. it is an institution that has of course outposts throughout the world that is absolutely essential to our security. nobody can make that argument better than our military. i have heard the highest praise over the years that i have been in washington, from our uniformed military that
diplomacy is where defense starts. that part of the defense of the united states is badly -- it is not getting the kind of leadership from the white house, it is not getting the kind of leadership it needs from the secretary of state. he is, i think, part of the problem. susan: have you ever spoken to him about this? mr. talbott: absolutely not. i have not been asked. gardiner: have you heard him asking around the people you know? one of the odd things about mr. tillerson is he is not asking advice of his usual gray heads. he never met with his predecessor, john kerry. as far as i know he never met with hillary clinton. he had very few meetings with any previous secretaries of state.
you are in that circle. have you heard him reaching out? mr. talbott: when i was in the profession that both of you are in, i covered the state department. this is without precedent. no matter if one party comes in and the other party goes out, the incoming secretary of state has always gone to his or her predecessors, plural. i don't think that has happened. what i hear from -- i have many friends who i revere as 1990's who say that they have -- i have many friends who i revere as colleagues back and the 1990's who say that they have been in a way banned from
sending memos to the secretary's office. they are supposed to be like victorian children, they don't speak unless they are spoken to. they are not spoken to very much. and there are a lot of empty offices. as you both know, we are just coming out of the united nations general assembly, and a lot of diplomats from other countries, including some of our most important allies have come down to washington to meet with at the nsc. they are having some luck of there. and going to the state department's and either there is nobody in the office, or whoever is in the office doesn't know what the policy thoughts are on the seventh floor which is where mr. tillerson sits. susan: i want to follow up on that. you mentioned something interesting about secretary
tillerson and the idea that this is almost not partisan. it is not part of the trump agenda but nonetheless occurring. do you think republicans are also worried about what is happening? mr. talbott: you bet. absolutely. i have been at a couple of conferences and meetings in recent weeks which are very bipartisan. i would like to say that our foreign-policy is nonpartisan, and they are very distressed about this. i should also say that there are, and i will not name them -- there are people both political and professional at the state department who are doing the very best they can who do understand the value and the importance of the morale of the
civil service and the foreign service. it is not completely bleak. but when the attitude from the top both in the building and in the government is dismissive, i don't think i have seen this and certainly hope never to see it again because it is bad for the country. >> we have 10 minutes up to go. i lived in hazard, kentucky for many years which a serious sort of trump-based place. i think they would look at you as one of the great wise man in washington. you headed arguably its most important think tank. you were the deputy secretary of state. a lot of them would see you as a guy who has brought them nothing but difficulties over the last 20 years. the coal industry has collapsed,
much of the lower middle class, not even particular, but you representing the sort of wiseman consensus in washington. -- wise man consensus in washington. there is a part of the trump administration that dismisses the status quo and that massachusetts avenue think is saying this is precisely why we went to washington. to do differently from what that sort of bipartisan consensus has been for a long time. do you see that rejection of the consensus as in any way appropriate, and have you seen any sort of replacement ideology that is effective? ,t's an odd question for you but i think your criticisms of the trump administration, for some of them and of these reporters -- supporters will be that is the point. this guy has come to shake up
washington, and you of all people in many ways kind of represent that washington consensus that they very much reject. mr. talbott: i think you are taking us in a new and very important direction. what you are talking about, i think and you will correct me if i am wrong, is not so much the president of the united states state -- the secretary of , you are talking about the phenomenon of the trump supporters around the country. i do feel that -- i will put susan aside, but i will put this susan and you and me all in the same boat. we have been in a bubble. we are part of the elite.
getting out of that bubble and understanding the grievances that are obviously irrelevant in virulenttry -- her in the country and while i am stepping down from the presidency of brookings, i will scholars.ank of with all respect for the new york times, you have fabulous reporting during the course of the campaign. but obviously even the new york times did not realize the depth and breadth of the grievances out there. but i don't think that -- what was it hazard, kentucky or , dayton, ohio where i was born, i don't think they are thinking
very much in terms of the foreign-policy of the united states. they are thinking are their kids going to have a better life for -- or a worse one and what is happening to their jobs. globalization good for them? it is a different issue. >> we have six minutes left in one exterior to russia. susan: lets get to russia. that was very nice to bring us into questions about who is the washington establishment and who -- it is a good question. russia is also a good question. mr. talbott: let's have a good answer. susan: it is now almost a full year since the alleged hacking of the election by the russians. mr. talbott: alerted? -- alleges? susan: our intelligence
community does not think it was a lead. president trump repeated again somehow this is a hoax, he repeated this yesterday. what do you believe the investigations of this are likely to find? how serious do you believe these investigations are when it comes to potential jeopardy that president trump and others may face? number two where do you , think the policy is towards russia today? i mean this not as a rhetorical question. we have talked to many people whose jobs it is to focus on russia. they can't even tell us what is the policy of the united states towards russia. mr. talbott: i just watched a movie called "icarus." gardiner: the guy who went to close to the sun? mr. talbott: it is about doping
in sports. you may not think that has a lot to do with russia. it has practically everything to do with russia. russia today under putin is weaponizing 21st century technology, both in the digital world and in the biological world to weaken his adversaries, us being number one. sometimes the question becomes, is this a new cold war? it is certainly not the same ideological competition that we had with marxists and leninism. but it is a virtual war. it isn't just the jeopardy that the president of the united states may have as a result of the new investigation. it is the country. it is american democracy.
i have had any number of europeans, particularly from nordic and baltic states, also major countries on the continent feeling the same threat that we are dealing with. i think it is going to be without maybe the specter of mushroom clouds. it is going to be a version of the kind of threat that we faced during the cold war from nuclear weapons now that there are -- now that there's a weaponization of the digital world, and things like our health. susan: quick follow-up question. this weekend will be the election in germany.
the polls suggest that chancellor angela merkel will win another term. but there is a strong performance by a third party. the asc party which has been an extreme right-wing party and supported by russia. do you see this as a consistent with their interventions in the policies of other european countries? mr. talbott: absolutely. i would say since president trump came and office i would guess that mr. putin would have regarded a president clinton as his number one enemy. but that is no longer the case. i think chancellor merkel probably has the dubious honor of being a target for him. by the way, the russians have
used money and hacking in almost every democratic election in the west over the last year. we are not alone. since we are about to and let me just say something. the russians through the ages this propensity to overplay their hand. they overplayed their hand big-time in this way. this whole hacking operation was supposed to be covert. it is not covert. and while it is arguable that mr. putin helped to put mr. trump in the white house, he is not getting the policies out of mr. trump and the white house because all of america, including the republican party that mr. trump might owe putin
something, so he is blocked and checked and not going to be able to do favors to russia for a long time to come. >> i will give you 34 seconds if you want to follow up. gardiner: putin will be reelected over the next 18 months. do you see this rivalry heating up going into that? is this rivalry structural between the west and russia, or is it all based upon putin's anger over the breakup of the soviet union? do you foresee this ever getting better? mr. talbott: i'm not sure if this directly answers your question but i would be quite certain that the united states tit foroing to play tat, not least because it will not be a fair election.
susan, i'm sure you know something, quite a bit about this. there is a sense in russia that brutal -- this society is brittle. there is civil society generating and there might be some interesting opposition. it won't be potent enough to keep him from getting another term. but i do think sinse russia now stalin'sssian have -- russia, it is modernizing to some degree and we can hope that maybe mr. putin, who has brought back some much of the past will be the last russian leader to do that. andt is a complex world
scratching the surface of so many interesting issues. thank you for being our guest on newsmakers. mr. talbott: my pleasure. >> newsmakers is back after our conversation with strobe talbott. long time forward expert and current head of the brookings institution. lots to digest in the conversation. let's start with where we ended which is russia. lots happening this week regarding facebook agreeing to turn over to investigators advertisements that they savor bought by russia in an attempt to influence the election. this continues to percolate and there are more angles of the story. going?o you see this susan: the thing that is striking to me is the use of the word "war." whatever you call it, he said in this interview that this is a form of warfare in the 21st century. increasingly i'm here in that
experts longtime russia both inside the u.s. government and recently outside the u.s. government, this is something new. people have watched the trajectory of putin's career, they have understood for quite some time that he was headed in a direction away from a view of russia integrating with the west. but this rhetoric that there is a war going on, it's only in the last six months to one year that i started tearing from russia hands. it is a significant departure, a significant worsening of the situation from where we were just a few years ago. >> he said angela merkel was target number one. it is against the west. gardiner: i just came from a meeting with a little any and foreign minister -- lithuanian foreign minister. they have been sounding the russia alarm for years and years. he essentially feels that
finally the united states is listening, and that his alarmist sense about the russians and the russia threat is now increasingly shared across the sea. i think we saw it with this great wise man strobe talbott saying the same thing, i think susan is right. this attitude about russia has really gelled in this town over the last couple of months and it is striking. >> he referenced his recent tweets. susan: clearly he does not share it. he has hired many people in his administration that agree. it is basically a consensus among republicans and democrats. once again, you have donald trump as an outlier representing his own set of opinions.
he basically has been constrained from acting on some of his impulses when it comes to his admiration for vladimir putin or even his desire to reset relations. congress has restrained him. even arguably the hiring of people within his administration because theyd him disagree with him, but i don't think that has changed his personal feeling. sovereignty,about and how important sovereignty is, never mentioning that the most important thing was the 2016 election hat, never the ukraine and crimea. although he talks about sovereignty with great aplomb, he never mentions the russian part of that, which was significant. >> we have less than a minute.
were you struck by talbot's comments about -- he called it a disaster. >> i was. it's extraordinary he was say that. is a signhink that that patience has run out. rex tillerson had a lot of is not defenders people saying give him time, the transition will take a wild. a sort what strobe said of a widening since in this town that they are giving up on rex tillerson. >> what interesting as it is not just democrats. again, there is something of a consensus on this, and you hear this level of online from republicans on capitol hill, even from republicans who are close to the trump administration. there is a level of resignation at this point. it is not just wait and see
anymore, but there is a level of happening athat is the state department. previous administrations have come in vowing to shake up change policy guidance to them, but they have never viewed the people who work for them as the enemy in such a way. even ronald reagan, who had a very rhetorical criticism of the bureaucracy in washington. his desire was to use the bureaucracy to his end, and no secretary of state am familiar with of either party has ever taken this approach to the people who work for him. >> some of the great heroes to the state department of secretaries of state were republicans. baker, whose husband is writing a book about colin powell, theme shultz, all of republicans who managed to really bring the state department along. that's not happening now. >> that is itor